Food Deserts


There are only three more days of walking for food as part of my Summer of 7 food challenge, but during this process, I’ve learned and thought a lot about food deserts.

What are food deserts?

Food deserts are low-income areas where access to real food groceries like fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish is limited.  (Official definition is HERE.) Persons in these areas often do not have cars and therefore walk to obtain their food from convenience stores or fast-food restaurants.  Consequently, these people increasingly suffer from obesity and diabetes.

I don’t live in a food desert, but I thought a lot about what it would mean if I did. I asked you all if you could walk to a grocery store and MOST of you said, “NO.” Like me, many of you said that your preferred store was too far away to walk.

It is hard for us to imagine how different our lives would be if we couldn’t just jump in the car to get our food. 

Need milk and apples? Okay.  Get your kids, hop on the bus, and head across town. Sorry. But you’re going to have to limit your selection to what you can carry on the bus (with your squirming kids). No frozen foods for you either because those are going to melt by the time you get home.

“BUT”, you say, “there is a huge Farmer’s Market down the road. I’ll walk there!”

Okay, sure.  But don’t forget, your Farmer’s Market doesn’t accept food stamps, which your family is on, so you have to use your rent money for produce. And, of course, in winter, the Farmer’s Market is closed.

Are you tired out yet? Discouraged? Does just thinking about all this make you feel overwhelmed? This is only the tip of the iceberg. Watch this 6 minute clip about an area without bus service.

 

I watched this and just felt . . . sad. Tired. And overwhelmed.  I’m not Michele Obama; what can I do?!?

When I looked up Food Deserts at the locator here, I was shocked to see one in my county.  AND, just like in my example above, there is a large Farmer’s Market smack dab in the middle of it that is frequented by rich, skinny, white people. (They are people that I formerly would have called middle class until I read that anyone making 35K a year or more is in the top 4% wealthiest persons in the world.  GASP.)

Grrrr.  This just chaps my rich, skinny, white hide.

However, I have learned a couple of things from my three weeks of walking to the store.  One of them is this: To get where you want to be, you have to start out. So let’s start. What’s ONE THING you can do, however small, to help alleviate the problem of food deserts in your area? Put your idea in comments and maybe it will spur someone else along.

Oh, don’t forget. You can keep up with The Summer of 7 through our Facebook Group. Or by linking up to the blog hop. Or by sharing the code for the blog hop on YOUR blog.


 

19 Responses to Food Deserts

  1. Shelly @ Coupon Teacher June 20, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    It is only when I read your posts like this that I realize how blessed I really am. Thanks friend!
    Shelly @ Coupon Teacher recently posted…On The Border Coupon: Free Queso!My Profile

  2. Leshelle June 20, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    I think some of these farms with the help of the government start accepting food stamps. Here in NY food stamp recipients can go to a number of farmers market for fresh produce. It is really unfortunate that there are people who don’t have access to the basics. Not sure what we can do, but i think letting people know this exists is a good first step.

  3. Cherie U. June 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm #

    Thank you for posting this… I had no idea that I live in a food desert and I am in the middle of the city. The nearest grocery store is a little over a mile from my house but is quite expensive and public transportation does have a huge hub on the same corner. There is also a huge farmer’s market every Tuesday about 2 miles from my house with public transportation to and from it and they accept SNAP benefits(food stamps). But if I had to walk just in my immediate vicinity there is no place to get fresh fruits and vegetables.

    • Katrina June 20, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

      Oooo, I’m excited to hear about these Farmer’s Markets that accept SNAP! Now, how can we encourage those living in Food Deserts to shop the Farmer’s Market? Maybe farmers with leftovers can be encouraged to donate them in food desert areas. Hmmm, more to think about. . . .

      • Noelle Carr June 21, 2012 at 9:56 am #

        WIC (the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children – up to age 5) also distributes farmers market vouchers during the summer here in Indiana. Each family has the opportunity to receive a specific dollar amount to spend with pre-approved vendors. The produce the vouchers buy can only be locally grown here in Indiana supporting local farmers.

        There is also a similar program for the elderly population which is government supportted as well.

        Increasing awareness of these types of programs can really help at least during the summer months, which is a start!

  4. Kay Bruner June 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    The farmer’s market in Dallas just started accepting food stamps, too. One of the problems facing fixed-income folks in our area is that much of the housing available to them is unregulated. This means that they are living in boarding homes where the owners take their WHOLE check for the rest (all $600 of it) and then give them back $20 for “walking around” money. The home owners are supposed to provide them with meals. But of course, does anybody make sure this happens? Or care if it’s nutritious? Not so much. It’s horrific, and something almost nobody knows about. Dallas City Council is considering whether they will adopt the state’s recommendations for boarding home regulation. I don’t know how these are recommendations, not requirements! But there you go. It’s optional. Anyway, it’s coming up for a vote in the next week or so and we’re praying it passes.
    Kay Bruner recently posted…blessing bagsMy Profile

  5. Bev June 20, 2012 at 1:21 pm #

    Our church planted a garden this year and gave out plots for people to grow their own veggies.
    Its fund to weed with friends!

    • Katrina June 20, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

      Wow! I love this idea. I noticed the other day that there is a HUGE grassy spot in the middle of our town’s “walking track.” Wouldn’t it be awesome if it could be a garden? I’m mulling this over. Would our town let us? I need to do some research.

  6. Sheila June 20, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    Montana actually has more areas that are food deserts than have access. I’m pretty fortunate to have 2 grocery stores in town, but at population of 3,000 we are the county seat. The closest farmers market that accepts food stamps is in Missoula, which is about 65 miles away. What they do though is swipe your card and give you little wooden tokens for the amount you have specified. That’s how anyone with only plastic shops there: swipe for tokens. The really cool thing about it is that the token used for SNAP and credit cards are the same so it’s even less potentially embarrassing than normal grocery shopping. The system works really well. I wish more markets were able to afford the equipment to do that.

    (I may or may not have saved a token as a souvenir because they are super cute. Hint: I did)

  7. Julie June 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    Thanks for putting in the link. I can’t believe I practically live in the food desert here in Union, Co.

    We have started delivering food once a month with common cupboard to a trailer park in that food desert. I drove past it all the time taking my kids to the pediatrician and never knew it existed. Now we are getting to know the people and I at least have faces to go with my prayers. The food we deliver is not the most healthy but does include a bag of fruit and a bag of veggies. Of course I took one look at it and wondered if I would ever buy it for my family it was so old. I’ve been wondering about helping plant some small gardens in the trailer park for everyone to use or asking Common Cupboard if I can at least donate extras from our garden to these families. I don’t have enough to give to everyone that Common Cupboard helps. I’ve also been meaning to ask them if they do anything connected with the whole school lunch thing I wrote you about. Speaking of the school lunch thing, my best guess is that from the farthest corner of this food desert to Monroe Middle (where the lunch is offered) is about 8-9 miles. Crazy! There has to be something more we can do.

    • Katrina June 21, 2012 at 8:40 am #

      I wonder if churches with buses could offer to bus kids to lunch? I’m curious to go over there and see if that isn’t already happening.

  8. Tracy B Niles June 21, 2012 at 6:35 am #

    Girl. you hit it on the head. my dream has been to have a veggie truck/fruit truck (think icecream truck with fresh produce) that delivers fresh produce to areas that are food deserts. I checked the locator…had none in my city of chesapeake. However there are SEVERAL all around me. so at least now I know my route! :) looks like I am going to need MORE trucks. God Bless you for having the insight to see this and share this!

    • Katrina June 21, 2012 at 8:39 am #

      Tracy, did you see the comment about this http://freshmoves.org/ on the Facebook page? Very cool stuff. I think big cities (where the problem is worse) are somewhat more equipped to handle the problem, but in smaller cities or suburbs, where maybe bus service isn’t available, the solutions are harder to come by. We have to be more proactive.

  9. Courtney June 21, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Ill do more research but I thought the farmers markets in Nc took food stamps?

    • Katrina June 21, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      Not all of them. I know mine doesn’t. I’d love to find a list of those that do. Let me know what you learn.

  10. Mandi June 21, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    LOVE the post, got my (rusty) wheels turning all day! Here are some ideas I have been thinking/researching

    1. Gleaning from farmer’s markets – talk with the farmer’s and see if they would let you take the extra they didn’t sell or the stuff that is not sellable and then you in turn deliver it to communities within the ‘desert’ areas. This could even be done with an actual farm that you may have some connection with. I know in my area there is a farm that we frequent that is right on the border of the desert area ~ convenient for delivery purposes! http://www.endhunger.org/north_carolina.htm
    2. Get with local officials or community based organizations to find out about subsidizing a CSA of sorts specifically for the desert population. Let’s Move campaign website has some info/resources on that. Start with organizations that already provide food to low income families like Angel Food Ministries, see if you can’t get a partnership started with a charity like that and a local farmer(s). Then find a way to bring the food TO the desert, the problem is not the lack of food or food banks etc, it’s the access to all that food!

    Excited to start looking into this more!!

  11. Gina @ Holding the Distaff June 21, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    Community gardens in urban areas are a growing trend. Open lots are turned into gardens and local residents plant and harvest their own plots. It’s a bit of a dream of mine to get one started in my community, perhaps working with an organization like Boys & Girls Clubs, and use it as an educational opportunity for them if the helped tend the garden and took the produce home.
    Gina @ Holding the Distaff recently posted…Junk Pile ConfessionsMy Profile

  12. Kaitrin June 21, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    A great group in our small town worked to get food stamps accepted at our local farmers market (which is quite small, but sells great local food!). I didn’t even think this was an option, but as of last week they were there! It was really a few people who made it happen….if yours doesn’t accept food stamps, maybe work on getting it to!

  13. kim June 30, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    Oh my goodness. I live about 2 hours or so from the twin in the video. What a wake-up call!!